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A Brief History of British Cars

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If you’re looking for a British car to buy, you’ll be spoiled with choice. Whether it’s for work or play, these cars offer the best of the country’s engineering skills and craftsmanship. They may not be as in-your-face and flamboyant as the American, Italian, or German models but they are the height of luxury. The British are known for their romantic nature and love of two-seaters, which is why there are plenty of companies that make roadsters (two-door sports cars with a retractable roof). Some of these include Caterham, MEV, and Elva.

There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to get your hands on a bargain, too, as these cars aren’t as expensive as you might think. A typical medium, C-segment car costs around PS26,585 to PS28,490 and can be bought from a UK dealer.

The 1960s was a boom time for the British car industry and it was in this decade that the iconic Jaguar E-Type and Jensen Interceptor were launched. It was also in this decade that front-wheel drive became commonplace on British cars and the hatchback bodystyle made its debut. However, the 1970s saw a downturn in the fortunes of many British marques. Government nationalisation of the automotive industry, internal rivalries and issues with labour meant that quality suffered, particularly for BLMC models such as the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina, which were often criticised in the motoring press.

Nevertheless, the UK is still one of the world’s largest producers of automobiles and has a long tradition of manufacturing cars. Some of the most famous names in British car production include Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bentley, Land Rover and Mini.

It was in the 1960s that the market for small, economical family cars really took off in Britain. Ford’s Anglia, Vauxhall Viva and Hillman Minx all proved popular alongside the Talbot badged versions of the Opel and Peugeot Citroen models. By the 1980s, GM had already started to move away from its British-based operations and was importing some of its European-built Opel vehicles to Britain under the Vauxhall banner.

Today, the UK’s biggest car manufacturers are BMW (Mini and Rolls-Royce), SAIC (MG) and Tata (Jaguar). Rights to several dormant marques, including the Aston Martin, Riley, Triumph and MG, have been acquired by foreign companies as well. Some of the newest, cutting-edge British cars are produced by Jaguar Land Rover, which uses advanced, aluminium-intensive construction methods derived from the aerospace industry to create their sleek, performance-focused models. They are among the fastest and most desirable cars in the world. The company also makes a wide range of SUVs and off-roaders at its Castle Bromwich plant. Honda is another major player and manufactures its Civic and Jazz models at a plant in Swindon, using techniques borrowed from the aerospace industry. They employ more than 350 people at the site.

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